Haleem is loaded with calories and saturated fat

This is the month of Ramadan, and the crowds thronging the haleem joints seem to be getting bigger every year. Over the last few years, haleem has risen in popularity to become the other signature dish of Hyderabad. Packets of haleem get shipped to all parts of the country and the world. The strange thing is that haleem has always been a fixture of Ramadan in Hyderabad, but it never had the kind of cult following it has now. One explanation for the increased buzz in the last few years is the occurrence of Ramadan in winter the last few times - a time suited for the heavy, calorie-rich pleasures of haleem.Haleem is a Persian import, and it is a popular dish in Pakistan as well. It is basically wheat porridge, with lamb, lentils and spices, slowly cooked over hours. These ingredients by themselves are not especially calorie-rich. The kicker comes with the ghee and seasoning ingredients like fried cashew nuts and walnuts. A serving of haleem typically costs around Rs.50. The favour is delicate, ghee-heavy, bordering on blandness, the texture made crunchy by a sprinkling of crisp-fried onions and a dollop of fried nuts. Some prefer haleem this way, foregoing the sharp lime slices as an accompaniment. For those who want something chewier, there is haleem with shreds of cooked chicken added just before serving. Vegetarian haleem is a recent innovation, with carrots, beans and potatoes substituting for meat. It is to traditional haleem what processed soy nuggets are to meat. It is difficult to quantify the nutrients and calories in haleem. It all depends on the balance of ingredients, and haleem joints jealously guard their recipes.One thing is certain: the dish is pure sin when it comes to calories and saturated fat. It would come with a health-warning label in a sane world. This is all right if you are having the dish after a day-long fast. But most of us thronging the haleem joints are not devout worshipers breaking a fast; we are just driven by the urge to gorge on an in-season snack. Just remember that the small cup of haleem contains a few hundred calories. You will work it off or pay for it in other ways by dieting or with your health. RAJIV. M